US 7236856 B2
An operation assisting system enhances the operator's willingness to participate in energy-saving efforts. The operation assisting system stores information about the actual operation of operated equipment carried out by the operator, evaluates the stored operation information, and displays the results of evaluation. The evaluation results relate to the cost concerning the operated equipment, the cost of supplying energy to the operation target facility, the cost concerning the operated equipment, the amount of emission of carbon dioxide, nitride oxide, and global warming substances, the amount of primary energy consumption, the crude oil-converted amount of energy consumption, the amount of excess or shortage of supply of energy, or electric power quality.
1. An operation assisting system comprising:
a demand prediction creating means for creating a demand prediction for an operation target facility using a machine;
a storing means for storing the machine-predicted demand;
an operation plan formulating means for deriving a machine-based operation plan for the operation target facility using a machine based on the demand prediction;
a storing means for storing the machine-based operation plan;
an operation plan input means for entering an operator-based operation plan for the operation target facility;
a storing means for storing the operator-based operation plan;
an operation information storing means for storing information about an operation carried out at the operation target facility in accordance with the operator-based operation plan;
an operation evaluation means for creating an evaluation of the operator-based operation plan by comparing the demand prediction, the machine-based operation plan, and the operation information;
a storing means for storing the evaluation of the operator-based operation plan; and
a display means for displaying the evaluation of the operator-based operation plan to the operator.
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This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/330,263, filed Jan. 12, 2006, which in turn is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/640,394, filed Aug. 14, 2003, now abandoned the entire disclosures of both applications being incorporated herein by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a technology for assisting or guiding a cogenerator operation method, so that necessary quantities of electric power or steam for use in factories or other buildings can be optimally generated in view of particular purposes, such as for the minimization of cost or carbon dioxide emissions. The invention also relates to an energy management system for assisting energy cutting measures in factories or other buildings, such as by assisting or guiding certain air conditioning settings. Beyond energy applications, the invention can also be used in assisting the operator of a system in which a final plan is decided upon based on appropriate results provided by computer and those provided by human (operator) senses. Furthermore, the invention can be applied to systems in which the appropriateness of results (processes) of human decisions is evaluated for the purpose of improving humanity's decision-making abilities.
2. Background Art
Due to problems such as global warming, finding methods of saving energy is now a pressing concern for humanity. In the 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (in Kyoto), concrete targets were set for reducing amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. In Japan, an Energy Conservation Law has been made, and large factories now employ certified energy conservation specialists. As a means of conserving energy, cogeneration technology is gaining attention. Cogeneration generates electric power/steam (heat) from fuels and utilizes both. A cogeneration system is comprised of an intricate combination (flow of energy) of elements such as a gas turbine, steam turbine, boiler, gas engine, micro-gas turbine, and heat regenerator. The electric or steam (thermal) power demand at operation target factories or buildings varies continuously. Thus, it is difficult for operators to calculate or plan how cogenerator operating equipment, including gas turbines, steam turbines, boilers, gas engines and micro-gas turbines, should be operated in order to meet the changing energy demand every day or for each instance in an energy- and cost-efficient manner. Accordingly, there is a need for a cogenerator operation assisting system that can predict electric power/steam demand at factories or other buildings and determine the most energy- or cost-efficient method of operating gas or steam turbines depending on the predicted electric power/steam demand, thus providing operation guidance.
In the prior art, a system has been proposed that predicts the electric power/steam demand at an operation target facility for a given day on an hourly basis based on weather conditions and schedule. The system then determines a cost-minimizing method of operating the cogenerator for supplying the necessary electric power/steam, thus providing guidance to the operator.
JP Patent Publication (Kokai) No. 2000-274308 A discloses a method of determining a cost-minimizing power supply (operation) method based on a combination of electricity purchase and cogeneration. JP Patent Publication (Kokai) No. 9-285010 A (1997) describes a method of predicting demand based on demand prediction results provided by a plurality of demand prediction means.
Prediction of electric power/steam demand on a continuous basis is required, because electric power cannot be stored. Machine-based predictions, however, are often inaccurate. Various counter-measures have been proposed, such as disclosed in the above-mentioned publication JP Kokai No. 9-285010, and yet the results are not accurate enough. As a result, operators, unable to put faith in demand predictions on the basis of which they are supposed to plan an optimum operation method, begin to rely on educated guesses and disregard the use of machines even for the calculation or planning of a cost- and energy-minimizing method of supplying energy, which they are best at. This has not necessarily resulted in energy- and cost-saving operations and, moreover, often discouraged the operators' enthusiasm for the cause of energy conservation, for they have no idea how much they are contributing to energy-saving efforts.
It is therefore an object of the invention to provide an operation assisting system that can flexibly cope with demand fluctuations by taking advantage of both operator know-how and the machine-based demand prediction/cost-minimizing operation calculations (planning).
It is another object of the invention to provide an operation assisting system that indicates the degree of contribution of the operator of a cogenerator to energy-saving efforts in concrete terms, thus increasing his or her willingness to participate in such efforts.
Yet another object of the invention is to provide an energy management system that takes advantage of both operator know-how and machine-based energy-saving advice and optimizing calculations, thus increasing the operator's willingness to participate in energy-saving efforts.
To achieve these objects of the invention, the operator determines a method of operating a cogenerator, for example, by taking advantage of both his or her own operation know-how and a machine-based optimum operation plan.
(a) Machine-predicted demand+machine-based optimum operation plan
(b) Operator-predicted demand+machine-based optimum operation plan
(c) Operator-predicted demand+operator-based operation plan
Based on the information (a) to (c), the operator decides on an operation method. The operator's contribution, such as how the actual electric power/steam demand has been successfully met at lower cost on account of the operator's decision, or how appropriate the operator's decision was, is evaluated on the basis of any difference between the machine-predicted demand and the actual demand, and by simulating the machine-based operation. This way, the operator's willingness to participate in energy-saving efforts can be enhanced.
(The sign “+” as in “(a) Machine-predicted demand+machine-based optimum operation plan” indicates, for example, that the amounts of electric power/steam are predicted by a machine, and then an optimum cogenerator operation plan is formulated by the machine to meet those amounts. In the following descriptions, the sign “+” will be used with the same meaning.)
Embodiments of the invention will be hereafter described by referring to the drawings. First, an example will be described in which the invention is used to assist an optimum operation of a cogenerator for a factory or a building.
The guidance display unit 104 and the operation evaluation result display unit 110 may be a common display (or output) unit.
For the entry of operator operation information, the operator-based operation determination unit 105 may be omitted and the operator-based actual operation input unit 107 may be provided alone.
In addition to the functions mentioned above, the demand/operation simulation unit 109 may be used for simulating what would happen if circumstances were to change in the operator's demand prediction or the operation plan the operator is about to decide upon (For example: What would happen if steam supply runs low and the process has to be stopped?) before the operator decides on an operation method via the operator-based operation determination unit 105. By doing so, a plan can be formulated that would not result in production losses even if circumstances deviate from predictions.
In the machine-based demand prediction and machine-based cogenerator operation method plan, an operation plan is formulated by machine based on information concerning the date such as year, month and day, weather, temperature, events, number of people involved, employee attendance and holidays. Specifically, based on the entry of such information, the machine predicts the steam or electric power demand for the day and formulates an optimum (cost- and carbon dioxide emission-minimizing, for example) cogenerator operation method commensurate with the demand by a mathematical programming method, for example. Details of the planning method are known in the prior art (such as the above-mentioned JP Kokai No. 2000-274308).
The term “optimum” means not only minimization of cost (including the cost of supplying energy and the cost of the operated equipment such as the cogenerator) and minimization of carbon dioxide emissions, but also minimization of nitrogen oxides, global warming substances, primary energy consumption, crude oil-converted energy consumption, and other indexes.
Specifically, the cost of energy supply including the cost of operated equipment (such as a cogenerator) includes the cost of introducing the cogenerator and the cost of supplying energy (such as fuel cost and operator personnel cost). For example, if the cogenerator costs 10 million yen and is assumed to be used for five years, the operated equipment cost would be 10 million/5=2 million yen per year.
Preferably, an optimum operation plan may be formulated by taking the purchase of electric energy into account, in addition to the supply of energy by cogeneration. (In this case, the plan may include the purchase of electric energy at night if unit purchase price at night is lower, and the operation of the cogenerator in daytime.)
In order for the operator to decide on the final cogenerator operation method in 304, he or she may be presented with information other than that provided in 301 to 303 (machine-predicted demand+machine-based optimum operation plan, operator-predicted demand+machine-based optimum operation plan, and operator-predicted demand+operator-based optimum operation plan), such as machine-predicted demand+operator-based optimum operation plan.
When the operator decides on a final cogenerator operation method in 304, the operation method may be confirmed by simulation, thus facilitating the operator's decision-making process.
The operator may make more than one decision in 304 regarding the final cogenerator operation method. Namely, the operator may modify or change the cogenerator operation plan whenever required in light of the actual situation of the steam or electric demand. By so doing, the operator can adapt the operation plan to deviations between the initial prediction result and the actual demand or to changes in production plans. Thus, the final operation results including such flexible changes in the operation plan are evaluated in 305 to 307 as those resulting from an operation by the operator.
The input of actual demand and actual operation results in 305 may be automatically carried out by a sensor or the like. The operation control of the cogenerator may also be carried out automatically according to the operation plan determined by the operator. These examples will be described later with reference to other embodiments.
The evaluation of the degree of contribution of the operator in 307 may be based on whether or not there was energy supply shortage or excess with respect to the actual steam or electric power demand, whether the energy supply cost was appropriate, or whether the carbon dioxide emissions were within appropriate levels (i.e., whether the operator's demand prediction and operation plan were better than those that depended only on the machine).
While in this example the electric power/steam supply is optimized, preferably other types of energy, such as thermal energy, may be optimized. In this case, the operated equipment plan may incorporate a thermal storage means such as a thermal ice storage system, for example.
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Preferably, as the day's actual electric power/steam demand becomes partly clear, part of the predicted demand may be replaced with-the actual demand and the subsequent demand may be predicted based on that actual demand. An optimal operation plan is then displayed (402 to 404), and the operator's final operation plan 405 may be changed as required.
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An operation method that should require less cost and/or energy in machine calculations may in reality render frequent activation and termination of gas or steam turbines impossible due to the characteristics of these devices. The method may also be inexecutable due to the operator's work conditions. In such cases, detailed conditions can be incorporated into the machine-based operation plan model, or, as it is the operator who makes the final decision on the operation method in view of the machine-based results, he or she can adjust the operation method when making a decision about it. Thus, in accordance with the invention, in which the operator makes a final decision on the operation method in view of the machine-based optimum operation plan and the operator-based optimum operation plan (including know-how), these problems may be flexibly dealt with.
Hereafter, another embodiment of the invention will be described. In this embodiment, the system according to the initial embodiment (for assisting the optimum operation of a cogenerator, for example) is connected to a remote device such as an actual cogenerator, so that the device can be automatically operated according to an operation plan determined by the operator. The system can also automatically obtain (monitor) information about the changes in the actual electric power/steam demand or the operation state of the cogenerator. The system is also capable of learning electric and steam demands, as well as the operator's operation method.
Preferably, the operator may make the decision about the final cogenerator operation method more than once in 304 (the same is true for 301 to 303). By thus allowing the cogenerator operation plan to be modified or changed in light of the actual steam or electric power demands, the system can flexibly adapt to demand fluctuations. Based on the results of such modifications or changes, monitoring and control is effected in 901. Monitoring and control in 901 can be effected remotely. Namely, information about the cogenerator 708 can be remotely monitored or controlled using the network information communication unit 702, network information communication device 801, cogenerator control unit 703, cogenerator control device 802, cogenerator monitoring unit 704, and cogenerator monitoring device 803. Thus, by allowing the cogenerator to be monitored or controlled remotely, an experienced operator can provide operation instructions for cogenerators at a plurality of factories or buildings.
The learning of the demand/operation (plan) information in 902 involves the date such as year, month and day, weather, temperature, events, number of people involved, and information about employee attendance or holidays, in association with information about the day's electric power/steam demands or operation (plan). By thus learning about the electric power/steam demands or operation (plan), the system (and finally, the operator) grows to be able to predict appropriate demands when, for example, there are periodical fluctuations in demand. Accordingly, the system is capable of dealing with fluctuations in accordance with the seasons or business climate. Further, by learning operation (plan), the accuracy of machine- (and finally, operator-) based operation plans can be enhanced.
The operator can monitor the cogenerator and modify (control) the cogenerator operation plan as required in 901 in light of the demand situations. In this connection,
Hereafter, an example of the learning of demand/operation (plan) information in 902 will be described.
Preferably, if Saturday and Sunday are holidays (such as at factories or schools), the electric power/steam demand prediction and the data learning for demand prediction may be carried out on the basis of the days of the week grouped into Monday, Tuesday through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This way, more accurate predictions can be made and less memory or data space is required than when the prediction is made on the basis of each day of the week.
In the present invention, the days of the week are grouped into a weekday (Monday), weekdays (Tuesday through Friday), Saturday, and Sunday. This is because the electric power/steam demands differ among the first day of the week, the following weekdays, the first holiday, and the last holiday. The days of the week, however, may preferably be grouped depending on the type of business. For example, if the number of users is larger on holidays, such as at hotels, or the number of customers is concentrated on a specific bargain day at a department store, the days of the week should be grouped accordingly. Further preferably, the parameters used for learning may be varied according to the type of business, so that an accurate demand prediction and operation plan can be made.
While the invention has been described by way of embodiments relating to cogenerator operation assistance, the invention can be similarly applied to other systems such as an energy management system for assisting building management for energy-saving purposes, or systems in which a final plan is determined based on computer-based results and human (operator) senses, thereby assisting operators.
While the above-described embodiments relate to operation assisting systems, a computer program for implementing the above-described processes may be installed on a computer.
Thus, in accordance with the invention, the operator can combine his or her operation know-how and machine-based cost-minimizing operation plan to achieve cost-saving operation while flexibly coping with demand fluctuations. Further, by evaluating the operator's contribution to energy-saving efforts, his or her willingness to do more to save energy can be enhanced.